6 steps to prepare for launching an intranet

Before ponying up for shiny new software, do your due data-gathering diligence.

You know it’s time for an intranet update—but where do you start?

Take these six steps to identify the issues that an intranet should address:

Step 1: Conduct an internal assessment.

Start by documenting what you already know is happening internally.

Evaluate your current intranet or communication/collaboration platform. What’s working? What are your weaknesses? Which features do employees seem to like, and which do they ignore?

Document the workplace problems or communication breakdowns that employees and leaders have mentioned. What made you realize you have to update your intranet software?

Also, determine what organizational goals you want your intranet to help you reach. Do you want your intranet software to:

  • Streamline and store data?
  • Unite and collaborate employees?
  • Digitize company operations?
  • Empower employees to create and innovate?
  • Increase productivity by cutting down time spent on projects?
  • Gain a competitive edge?

Once you identify your main goals, you can structure your intranet strategy around them.

Step 2: Build a team and an analysis strategy.

To assemble an intranet dream team, contact experts who can guide you, and identify the employees who will be most affected by the switch. Look for potential sponsors, champions or internal influencers, and include them in the needs analysis process.

Next, decide which employees you’ll interview to determine which features merit priority. Remember that the most valuable data will come from employees who are conducting the company’s day-to-day activities—not their supervisors.

If you do include managers in the strategy process, make sure they’re eager and willing to help facilitate the adoption of new software.

Here’s who should be included in the interviewing and feedback-gathering phase:

  • Key staffers from every department
  • Senior staff members
  • Current intranet or IT managers
  • New hires
  • Remote staff
  • Social media managers
  • Administrative staff

Then, you and your team should draft the intranet-needs analysis questions you want your stakeholders to answer. To streamline data collection, keep questions closed-ended and specific. You might use multiple-choice questions, a Likert scale or a list of statements to choose from.

Here are some sample intranet categories of interest to cover:

  • Company collaboration (emails, meetings, internal communication)
  • Current intranet use (frequency, efficiency, importance)
  • Software usability (search features, user interface, speed)
  • Content creation and editing
  • Data storage and management
  • Social collaboration (employee directory, blogs)
  • Task management
  • Areas of improvement

Step 3: Conduct interviews, surveys and field studies.

To get an accurate sampling, use different feedback-gathering techniques—such as interviews, surveys and field studies.

Online surveys are efficient and easy, but make sure your sample size is not so small as to skew your results.

You can do individual interviews, group interviews or focus groups. An individual interview will give you a more detailed picture of a specific user’s preferences, but this approach is limited in its scope (and time-consuming). Group interviews can help paint a broader picture of employee preferences needs, but you need to work to keep the entire group engaged and on track. Ideally, you would combine those techniques to get the most accurate results.

A recent article posted by Nielsen Norman Group asserts that field studies are the way to go when asking intranet needs analysis questions:

Observing users in their natural work environment provides realistic context and representative data, unveils mismatches between users’ mental models and designers’ beliefs about them, and builds empathy with end users.

Basically, there’s a gap between what people say they do and what they actually do.

Observing staffers at work reveals exactly what is happening in the workplace. You may catch something that they aren’t even recognizing in their own approach.

However, before conducting in-house field studies, decide on a specific note-taking and rating system. How else will you get quantifiable results?

Step 4: Analyze the data.

As you sift through the data, remain focused on the goals you identified. Filter responses through the lens of your objectives, and use the replies to prioritize requirements/capabilities/features .

Examples of these categories are:

  • Data and information storage/distribution
  • Employee engagement
  • Social tools
  • Employee collaboration
  • Task management
  • Content creation

Decipher the major obstacles that are impeding employees from doing their jobs, identify any workplace social or cultural barriers that are undermining your current intranet strategy, and home in on areas where IT support is continually needed. After identifying chronic problems, your team can work toward solutions.

Step 5: Specify your needs and requirements.

This step is the blueprint and guide for your intranet strategy. Either crystallize your findings into an intranet implementation plan, or create a proposal to send out to different vendors.

Be as specific and organized as possible when communicating which features you require. Be clear about what problems you want the intranet to help solve or alleviate. As always, keep the user in mind. You want features that are going to make everyday tasks easier and more efficient.

To help you determine and define your requirements:

  • Distinguish “wants” from “needs.” Prioritize your “needs” for the vendor/builder.
  • Quantify data, being as specific as you can.
  • Explain why you need certain features. Also determine who will be using it and how.
  • Keep every department in mind, and include features that will help various departments.
  • When in doubt, explain to your provider exactly what problem you want them to solve.

Step 6: Finalize your plan, set project limitations, and plot a course for enduring success.

Just creating a new intranet is not enough. It’s crucial to create a long-term plan of action to maximize your investment.

First, assess the limitations of your project. Start by setting a clear, feasible budget. Your intranet won’t survive unless leaders commit resources to it.

Also consider:

  • Do you have enough staff to manage and maintain the intranet?
  • What will the implementation, adoption and training process look like?

Anticipate employee resistance to new software or procedures. How will you counteract negativity or pessimism? How will you handle training? What about remote employees? Consider these potential issues when finalizing your plan. Also, establish KPIs and specific metrics you plan to track so you can measure your ROI.

A version of this post first appeared on the Happeo blog.

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